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The Scarlet Letter

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“What does this sad little brook say, mother?” inquired she. “What does the sad little brook say, mother?” she asked.
“If thou hadst a sorrow of thine own, the brook might tell thee of it,” answered her mother, “even as it is telling me of mine! But now, Pearl, I hear a footstep along the path, and the noise of one putting aside the branches. I would have thee betake thyself to play, and leave me to speak with him that comes yonder.” “If you had a sorrow of your own, the brook might speak about it,” answered her mother, “even as it is speaking to me about mine. But I hear a footstep along the path, and the sound of someone pushing branches aside. Go play and leave me to speak with the man coming this way.”
“Is it the Black Man?” asked Pearl. “Is it the Black Man?” asked Pearl.
“Wilt thou go and play, child?” repeated her mother. “But do not stray far into the wood. And take heed that thou come at my first call.” “Will you go and play, child?” her mother repeated. “But don’t wander far into the wood. And take care that you come at my first call.”
“Yes, mother,” answered Pearl. “But, if it be the Black Man, wilt thou not let me stay a moment, and look at him, with his big book under his arm?” “Yes, mother,” answered Pearl. “But if it is the Black Man, would you let me stay a moment and look at him, with his big book under his arm?”
“Go, silly child!” said her mother, impatiently. “It is no Black Man! Thou canst see him now through the trees. It is the minister!” “Go, silly child,” her mother said impatiently. “It’s not the Black Man! You can see him now, through the trees. It is the minister!”
“And so it is!” said the child. “And, mother, he has his hand over his heart! Is it because, when the minister wrote his name in the book, the Black Man set his mark in that place? But why does he not wear it outside his bosom, as thou dost, mother?” “Yes it is!” said the child. “And, mother, he has his hand over his heart! Did the Black Man make his mark there when the minister wrote his name in the book? And why doesn’t he wear the mark outside his chest, as you do, mother?”
“Go now, child, and thou shalt tease me as thou wilt another time” cried Hester Prynne. “But do not stray far. Keep where thou canst hear the babble of the brook.” “Go, child, and tease me another time,” cried Hester Prynne. “But do not go far. Stay where you can hear the babble of the brook.”
The child went singing away, following up the current of the brook, and striving to mingle a more lightsome cadence with its melancholy voice. But the little stream would not be comforted, and still kept telling its unintelligible secret of some very mournful mystery that had happened—or making a prophetic lamentation about something that was yet to happen—within the verge of the dismal forest. So Pearl, who had enough of shadow in her own little life, chose to break off all acquaintance with this repining brook. She set herself, therefore, to gathering violets and wood-anemones, and some scarlet columbines that she found growing in the crevices of a high rock. The child went singing away, following the current of the brook and trying to mix a happier sound into its sad voice. But the little stream would not be comforted. It kept telling its garbled secret of some mournful mystery or making a sad prophecy about something that would happen within the dismal forest. So Pearl, who had enough sadness in her own little life, broke off her friendship with the brook. She went about gathering flowers that she found growing in the crack of a high rock.
When her elf-child had departed, Hester Prynne made a step or two towards the track that led through the forest, but still remained under the deep shadow of the trees. She beheld the minister advancing along the path, entirely alone, and leaning on a staff which he had cut by the way-side. He looked haggard and feeble, and betrayed a nerveless despondency in his air, which had never so remarkably characterized him in his walks about the settlement, nor in any other situation where he deemed himself liable to notice. Here it was wofully visible, in this intense seclusion of the forest, which of itself would have been a heavy trial to the spirits. There was a listlessness in his gait; as if he saw no reason for taking one step farther, nor felt any desire to do so, but would have been glad, could he be glad of any thing, to fling himself down at the root of the nearest tree, and lie there passive for evermore. The leaves might bestrew him, and the soil gradually accumulate and form a little hillock over his frame, no matter whether there were life in it or no. Death was too definite an object to be wished for, or avoided. When her elf-child had left, Hester Prynne took a few steps toward the forest path but remained under the deep shadow of the trees. She saw the minister walking alone on the path and leaning on a rough staff made from a branch he had cut along the way. He looked worn and weak. He gave an impression of nervous despair, which had never been apparent when he walked around the village, nor any other place where he thought he might be seen. In the intense isolation of the forest, which itself would have depressed the spirits, his despair was sadly visible. There was an exhausted quality to his steps, as though he saw no reason to take another, nor felt any desire to do so. It seemed that he would have been glad—had he been glad of anything—to throw himself down at the root of the nearest tree and lie there, motionless, forever. The leaves might cover him, and the soil gradually form a little hill over his body, whether there was life in it or not. Death was too concrete a goal to be either wished for or avoided.
To Hester’s eye, the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale exhibited no symptom of positive and vivacious suffering, except that, as little Pearl had remarked, he kept his hand over his heart. To Hester’s eye, the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale showed no sign of active, lively suffering—except that, as little Pearl had noticed, he kept his hand over his heart.

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